Earlier this week we reported on a study that found individuals who were offered monetary incentives to lose weight were more likely to ditch the excess pounds than those spurred on solely by motivation or education.
Now a new tiny airline appears to have taken this "pay as you go" solution to heart. Samoa Airline announced this week that it plans to start pricing its first international flights based on the weight of the passenger and their luggage. Depending on the flight, each kilogram (2.2 pounds) costs 93 cents to $1.06.
According to the NBC News, Associated Press article, the weight-based pricing is not new to the airline, which launched in June. It has been using this pricing model since November, but in January the U.S. Department of Transportation approved its international route between American Samoa and Samoa. Thus this will be the first weight-based airline to service the domestic United States. That means the average American man weighing 195 pounds with a 35 pound bag would pay $97 to go one-way between Apia, Samoa, and Pago, American Samoa. Competitors typically charge $130 to $140 roundtrip for similar routes.
While not marketed as a means of combatting obesity, opponents of such a pricing system may charge this to be a discriminatory measure that directly targets obese or overweight individuals. However the airline's chief executive, Chris Langton explains the rationale differently, noting that "planes are run by weight and not by seat, and travelers should be educated on this important issue. The plane can only carry a certain amount of weight and that weight needs to be paid. There is no other way."
Proponents of such a weight based pricing system will likely agree that it s a fair, and reasonable free-market solution to travel pricing. Particularly since current pricing often uses random and intangible pricing where passengers pay costs that differ from $200 - $300 dollars for the same flight.
"It will be interesting to see how other domestic airline carriers respond to this new concept," says ACSH s associate director Cheryl Martin "This is one situation where monitoring one's weight will actually pays off monetarily -- perhaps offering passengers that additional incentive needed to lose excess weight."
As ACSH regularly points out, the health effects of obesity are numerous, but the key to controlling weight does not necessarily require imposing broad mandates, such as banning large-soda sizes, or taxing so-called "junk food." ACSH prefers to stress the importance of educating the public on proper diet choices, sufficient exercise, and other incentives that motivate individuals to want to lose or maintain a healthy weight on an individual basis.
While this new airline pricing system is not proffered as a way to encourage people to control weight -- from a public health perspective it may very well be the unintended positive effect.